Thursday, 24 September 2015

Another Press Release Story

I had always assumed that the British Trust for Ornithology  was a kind of more serious version of the RSPB, therefore less inclined to go in for self publicising. So this morning's item on the BBC's flagship Today programme, obviously arising from a press release was a surprise. The media people are suckers for picking up these press releases uncritically, making something rather commonplace and old hat seeming to be more important than it is, but helpfully filling in a slot in the schedule.

But it was still a shock to hear that the BTO had concluded that warblers (blackcaps) from Europe had decided to winter in Britain instead of migrating to Africa because of bird table goodies in suburban gardens. This has been known for at least 20 years, by thousands of people including me. So why highlight it now? The answer is, of course, competition. We know don't we that the conservation charities are obsessed with this kind of self publicising and will do anything to get their name on the airways. BTO has been somewhat aloof from this rather grubby activity up to now. But it has a new Strategy 2015 to 2020 and it has all the hallmarks of managerialism inspired by consultants, including a glossy brochure and numerous bullet pointed targets. One of these targets is to get themselves talked about: They have STRATEGIC PERFORMANCE INDICATORS, one of which is to "deliver growth in membership and maintain retention". Enough said.

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